Politicians are not sufficiently aware of the feasibility of the new pension system

Published on: 6 May 2021

Examples of implementation problems in government organizations are there for the taking. Nevertheless, political The Hague is currently not paying attention to the lessons learned from this. According to APG policymaker Johan Barnard, this is worrying, because we are on the eve of the introduction of a completely new pension system. If the bill for this is postponed, according to Barnard, the extra time must therefore be spent on the comprehensibility, explainability and feasibility of our new pension system.


The House of Representatives has a blind spot for the implementation of government policy. Because parliament is not always fully and timely informed, but also because the House has too little interest in implementation. Moreover, the House of Representatives and the government have neglected implementation for years. Here are two important conclusions from the report "Klem tussen balie en beleid" (Stuck between desk and policy), about the extensive, regularly occurring implementation problems in the government.


It is a relevant report because it draws lessons from a wide range of cases where things went wrong, including the allowance case (Toeslagenaffaire). But anyone who expected a substantive discussion about causes and solutions to dominate politics in recent weeks was disappointed. Because despite the efforts of informateur Tjeenk Willink (who investigates whether a proposed government formation will succeed), political attention is mainly focused on the question of who should be held responsible for what. Read: who should be removed from politics.


This lack of substantive discussion is all the more poignant because since the publication of "Klem tussen balie en beleid", we've seen one signal after another about new impending implementation problems - even in recent weeks. On April 12, procurator general Rinus Otte noted in an interview in Trouw that the Public Prosecution Service and the judiciary are not given enough time to introduce a reinforcement of the victim's position in criminal proceedings. According to Otten, the reinforcement was not well thought out. In the NRC of 20 April, chairman Maarten Camps said "that the UWV can do without plans from The Hague for now". He prefers to talk first about how the UWV (Employee Insurance Agency) can attract enough insurance doctors. The new Environmental Act will be introduced on January 1, 2022. At least, that's the plan. The four big cities have written an urgent letter about the unfeasibility of that date - on April 25, FD reported  that only 9 of the 352 municipalities had their ICT organized. And according to the Court of Audit, the AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service) and MIVD (Military Intelligence and Security Service) spend so much time on the implementation and requirements of the new "Intelligence and Security Services Act 2017" that their intelligence position is under pressure. 


The Council of State has established that the necessity of new laws is not sufficiently demonstrated and that they are insufficiently tested for feasibility and 'practicability' for citizens and government organizations. Thom de Graaf, Arno Visser and Reinier van Zutphen, (vice-president of the Council of State, president of the Court of Audit and the national ombudsman respectively) also collectively shared their concerns about the implementation quality of the government policy (Buitenhof, 25 April). There they let it be known that responsibility for this also lies with parliament.


You may see the storm building. Because is there enough attention for implementation and practicability when it comes to pensions? The first signs are not very encouraging. On January 12 last, the bill "Lump sum, Early Retirement Scheme (RVU) and leave savings" was passed. But the introduction of the part that should make a pension payment of 10% of the pension assets possible at once (Lump sum) was immediately postponed until 2023. First, they have to investigate whether the implementation can be organized in a less complex way.


And then there's the introduction of a completely new pension system. That transition is many times more complex. The judgment of the Dutch Advisory Board on Regulatory Burden was quite harsh: "don't submit it, unless the points for advice are taken into account". According to the Advisory Board, the bill has not been described clearly enough, which means that it is difficult to assess whether additional implementation costs (in a financial sense) are justified. The Advisory Board also raises the question of whether the new system is easier to explain. And to see whether participants will be able to cope with the new system, it demands a 'capacity test'.


The Hague has recently been talking about the need for a new political culture of "power and countervailing power". We expect comprehensible, explainable and certainly enforceable legislation from a new government that wants to make serious work of that culture. Some expect the bill for the new pension system to be postponed. In that case, in the interest of the participants, the extra time should mainly be spent on those aspects of comprehensibility, explainability and feasibility. I'm not convinced that politicians are currently paying enough attention to this.


Could it be a coincidence that none of the seven members of the parliamentary committee of inquiry for implementing organizations has returned to the House?